Abba Babba

How can we build empathy for the language challenges of non-English speaking immigrants in the US with games? 


Game design
Iterative prototyping


Games For Change
Come Out & Play


Sultana Abbar
Manolo Ampudia
Barbara Fang
Yena Lukac

Abba Babba

Abba Babba is a big, outdoor game made to simulate the communication challenges many non-English speaking immigrants face when they arrive in the US.

Game Design

Players in the fictional land of Abba Babba assume roles of either native Abba Babbans or immigrants who want to become Abba Babban residents. Teams are composed of native-immigrant pairs, where natives use the made-up Abba Babban language to guide immigrants as they race to find hidden keys that unlock documents required for the coveted Abba Babban residential permit. After play, participants debrief on how their language constraints impacted their ability to succeed and how they can better support non-English speakers in their daily lives.

Iterative Prototyping

Our team developed Abba Babba through iterative prototyping, continuously refining the game functions and experience so that it simulated the language barriers non-English speaking people face daily in the US. As we played Abba Babba with different participants, player group sizes, and in new contexts we adapted the instructions, materials, and game dynamics to create a more cohesive and impactful learning experience.

Over 60 people played Abba Babba at the Come Out & Play 2015 outdoor game festival.